Tuesday, December 09, 2014

No Child or Turtle Is Left Behind

It finally started pouring around 12:30 last night, and it was still going when I awoke this morning. I spent a lot of the morning nice and dry inside, reading How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas and finishing my current offline journal. This was no morning to be out running around.

When I did get up, I had the usual Multi-Grain Cheerios and half a grapefruit for breakfast. Since CBS ran the 1964 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer tonight, I thought I'd do the same. Rudolph is a very cute little reindeer with a very red, glowing nose. Driven away by the teasing of his fellow reindeer, he encounters Hermie, an elf who wants to be a dentist, and prospector Yukon Cornelius. The three first travel to the Island of Misfit Toys, where they meet rejected playthings that just want to be loved by children, before finally returning to the North Pole during a blinding blizzard. Santa may not be able to get past the blizzard to make his rounds, unless Rudolph lends a hoof...and a nose.

I headed out after Rudolph ended. By 11:30, the rain had gentled down to a slight mist. It was chilly but not abnormally so for this time of year, probably in the upper 30s-lower 40s. I thought I'd take a short walk in Oaklyn and hit the library and finish my shopping while Mother Nature behaved herself.

The Library was my first stop. The weather must have scared everyone off. The only person I saw there for the entire 40 minutes was the librarian. I just organized DVDs and children's series books while CNN droned on in the background.

I had one more bit of Christmas shopping left to do at the House of Fun. I saw something there a while back that Lauren might get a kick out of. I found that in the back right away, then explored the rest of the store. Didn't see anything I couldn't live without at the moment. I headed out after I bought the item.

Though it was just misting again as I walked home, the rain picked up shortly after I arrived. It rained off and on through most of the afternoon, though it's been off since the evening hours. I spent the rest of the afternoon at home, wrapping all of my Christmas presents. This completes my Christmas gift shopping. If anyone shows up unexpectedly, they will get food or something small from the Acme or one of the drug stores.

Put on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze while I wrapped. The Turtles are now looking for a new home, their previous one having been destroyed by the Foot Clan in the first film. While Leonardo and Raphael bicker over not doing more about the city's crime, their reporter friend April O'Neal discovers that a lab has been covering up the burial of some canisters of mutagen that could have destructive properties in the wrong hands. Meanwhile, their old adversary Shredder has reappeared. He's out for revenge and is determined to eliminate the Turtles, come heck, highwater, or Ninja Raps.

This is rather notorious today for being a lot less gritty than the first film and for being extremely early 90s, up to and including the infamous, rather gratuitous "Ninja Rap" dance sequence at a club with Vanilla Ice. For all of that, I've always liked it. Yes, it's lighter, but it has some great one-liners. Raphael's reaction to the guys' new digs, "And I thought all the really good dungeons were in Europe!" is a favorite.

Though it's more comic, there is still violence and some very scary monsters. As with the first movie, I recommend this for older Turtles fans. Younger ones will want to start with their choice of cartoon series before coming to any of the movies.

Switched to The Flintstones' Christmas Carol as I finished up the wrapping. Fred plays Scrooge in a local production of the famous novella, but he's taking the role far too much to heart. His constant rehearsing and inflated ego (when his ego wasn't exactly small to begin with) is driving Wilma crazy. Wilma has enough to deal with as it is - she's the show's stage manager and understudy. Fred finally learns a lesson in what Christmas really means when he's accidentally locked in a department store during the show's intermission and is given a scare by a security guard.

Went straight in the bath as soon as the Flintstones ended. Ahhh. That felt very good. I listened to one of my WOGL Ultimate Christmas collections and read Christmas Songs Made In America. Though most of those were fairly recent, like "White Christmas" and "Jingle Bell Rock," a few, such as "Away In a Manger" or the African-American spiritual "Go Tell It On the Mountain" go back to the 19th century or further.

When I finally dragged myself out, I made pasta and chicken meatballs with Brussels sprouts in oriental sauce for dinner while watching Arthur Christmas. Like the Disney shorts Prep & Landing, this one uses science and technology to explain how Santa can deliver presents to millions of children in one night. The answer - a covert operation that always gets Santa in and out without being seen. Though Santa gets to place the last present, he's really more of a figurehead than anything else. The current Santa has two sons who want to succeed him. Steve is ultra-efficient and organized, but he's also a bit of a jerk and really doesn't like children or toys. Arthur is clumsy and something of a nerd, but as the person who answers Santa's letters, he's aware of what they need and want and genuinely wants to make them happy.

When one child's present is overlooked, Arthur becomes determined to deliver it at all cost, in order to keep the child's faith in Christmas alive. GrandSanta, the previous Santa, agrees to take Arthur there in his ancient steampunk sleigh. GrandSanta may be a treasure trove of stories about what he did during his days as the lone gift-giver, but he's not very good at hiding himself. While countries around the world think they're seeing aliens, the current Santa, his wife, and Steve know what it really is and goes after them.

Surprisingly sweet and quite enjoyable. I really liked how no one in this was played as a villain. Steve and Arthur are two different sides of the same coin - one is efficient, the other is determined, and neither is entirely wrong in their approach. Even the world leaders who overreact to the sleigh sightings aren't bad, just paranoid. GrandSanta is greedy and rather selfish, but he does help Arthur in the end, and even admits that running out like that in the sleigh wasn't the best idea in the world.

It's too bad this one ran into the dual problems of poor marketing and a tough 2011 family market, including The Muppets and Alvin and the Chipmunks. This is a genuinely fun movie that deserves to be far better known. Highly recommended, especially for families and for fans of other Aardman projects (you can see references throughout the film).

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